Currently, we are looking out over the Tasman Sea in Auckland, NZ, reflecting on the last 3 months. The trip has all been wrapped up, and we are here as your OE’s, your friends, and your fellow travelers. What a whirlwind of an adventure it has been. By now many of you all will have told your friends and families some of your favorite stories and memories, and we wanted to share a few of ours.
Thinking back to our time right after Orientation, we all woke up on a blustering cold morning. The sun was just rising as we ran our surf boards out into the ocean, waves chopping at our faces. It was one of our first full days of adventure together. While some of us sat on the beaches, huddled beneath puffy jackets others took to the swells, under layers of neoprene and goosebumps.
Moving forward to Tiaki’s where we all learned more about not only our rich and vibrant group community, but also the culture and people we were sharing it with. Learning alongside the Maori, while we lived in the Kokiri put our adventure in perspective and helped us identify and empathize with the marginalized and resourceful indigenous people of not only NZ, but also Fiji, Australia and first nations in the United States. We shared meals, stories, and manna with them, and through this our community grew.
We then continued south for Student Directed Travel. Here, you all took it upon yourself to pack our days with strenuous hikes, late night singing, and exploration of of NZ’s city centers. During our hike out to the Arches in Kahruangi NP, the group was at first hesitant about such a long hike, and with it came some interpersonal challenges. Yet when we all met up on the final junction of the well worn trail, there was nothing but smiles on our faces and blisters on our feet.
From there we flew over to Fiji where we all got our first taste of living in small rural communities and homestay. While our time in Fiji may not have been everyone’s favorite, for us it may be the area we remember the most. To the children always asking us to play, to the torrential downpours, the hardworking side by side locals, the day at the school, and even the constipation from the much too fried food, Fiji was an adventure and a half. We hope you all get more time exploring communities similar to Nakuku where you can connect with people who may be different from the ones you are most familiar with.
Then came Australia. Australia’s heat and funny saying went by much too fast. To us nothing could have been a better way to close out our trip then spending the days at Sheoak Ridge. Working alongside Marus and Claire provided us with much needed academics and hard, back breaking labor. Learning from some of the most knowledgable scientists when it came to bugs, rocks, and plants was fascinating. Feeding the wallabies at night became a special treat for those who cherished it. Nothing could compare to waking up to the sounds of birds above you, and macropods hoping along right next to your tent. This was Australia at it’s finest.
As you walk around your neighborhood at home, things might not look the same. The trees you thought were just green or brown may now have significance to you. The friends from home that you remembered so well, may have a different outlook or character then you last thought. Remember the meals you cooked for a group of 14. That is no easy task, cooking for your family will now seem easy. Navigating without turn-by-turn directions now may seem like a walk in the park (or track). We empower all of you to get out and explore. Reconnect with loved ones, and find new ones to adventure with. Cherish the time we had together, and remember if you ever feel that loneliness pick up a pen and write.
We want to impart one last piece of wisdom:
“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
― Rene Daumal
Your Friends and OE’s,
Nat and Dan